“Wildman” Steve Brill – NYC’s wild edible plant forager extraordinaire

For years, a pith helmet, nearly comic determination, and astounding know-how have combined to fashion Steve Brill’s persona, as he leads expeditions through Central Park and New York’s other semi-wild places in search of edible plants and flowers.  Adventurers get a dose of accomplishment and renewed respect for the bounty of nature, right here in one of the most man-made environments in the world.  Come with us!

Posted in Health, Oral History-oid, Science Tags: , , , , , ,

Blue Collar Ground Zero

A Dateline report recorded about two months into 2002 with the work crews tasked with clearing the debris from Ground Zero, sorting through it for human remains, and making it ready to be put on barges to be floated for disposal in Fresh Kill. The stress, sadness and nobility of the men there were quite amazing.

Posted in Americana, New York, Oral History-oid, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , ,

Grieving New Yorkers Search for Their Loved Ones (VOA 9/14/01)

I was living in Washington at the time of the September 11th 2001 attacks, but was able to get the first train into Manhattan when the island opened on the morning of September 12th. I worked 17 hours a day in the week following, chronicling the human impact of the World Trade Center attacks on the city I love and have always loved. This story was one of several I filed in those first days.

Posted in Americana, History, New York, Oral History-oid, Person on the Street Interviews, September 11th and Its Aftermath Tags: , , , , , , ,

Grieving Vets Remember Their War

For many Americans, Veterans Day means merely a long weekend of relaxation or a parade of patriotic display and brouhaha.   But for many of the veterans who fought and killed in war, the psychological wounds engendered by the carnage continues long after the guns have gone silent. I asked a group of everyday vets, many homeless, most with PTSD, to remember their war experiences, and to talk honestly about the toll war continues to take on them and those around them.

Elsewhere on this blog, see also my Memorial Day story in which veterans remember the fallen comrades in arms in all their human particularity.

Posted in Americana, History, Holidays-Season Specific, Oral History-oid

Memorial Day: Vets Remember The Fallen

Memorial Day in America is supposed to be a time to remember those who have died in our wars, and to thank them for their sacrifice.  However, for many of us, Memorial Days does not mean much more than a three-day weekend, and perhaps some flag-waving and parades.  I wanted this piece to serve as a counterpoint in which  veterans from World War One, World War Two, and the wars in Korea, Vietnam and the First Gulf War actually remember and speak about someone they personally knew who died alongside them in combat — who were they, what were their names, how did they die, how did they live?

Posted in Americana, History, Holidays-Season Specific, Oral History-oid Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Old-Time Communists Reminisce (May Day)

People often think of the American Communists of the 1920s and 30s as angry political types alone. There is no denying that the systems that grew out of the Bolshevik and other revolutions failed miserably, largely discrediting Communism in practice. Still there a powerful spiritual vision underlying the embrace of Communism — equality, justice, brotherhood (generically understood), and a day when people would help each other without the self-interested and hamfisted mediation of the politicians, the police or the priests. For this interview connected with May Day 2004, I interviewed two darling octogenarian women living who remember their youths in Communist New York during the 1930s. The fact that I did it for the Voice of America heightened its appeal for me.

Posted in Americana, History, Holidays-Season Specific, New York, Oral History-oid, Spirituality Tags: , , , , , ,

The Kitchen Sisters: Audio Maestre

The Kitchen Sisters are famous in the radio world, and to National Public Radio listeners, for the wonderful way they combine the sounds and sentiments of real people according to themes and make their lives come alive for all of us. In this profile, I talk to them in a cozy San Francisco locale and learn more about what makes them tick, and how they find their inspirations.

Posted in Americana, Oral History-oid, Profile, Women

Two Showgirls of Yesteryear

It may be hard or many of us to imagine the glitter and the sometimes risque fun associated with the old nightclubs, burlesques and vaudeville houses of the 1920s and 1930s, especially in New York, where such entertainment reached a certain height of glamor. But what was that life like for those on the other side of the footlights? For this piece, I spoke with the late Dorshka Rafaelson, formerly of the Ziegfeld Follies, and Isabelle Powell,  widow of Adam Clayton Powell, who graced Harlem’s Cotton Club.  Both were  still-beautiful, and beautifully spirited, women.

Posted in Americana, History, New York, Oral History-oid, Women Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,